Raynaud's Phenomenon of the Nipples
Just when you thought you had heard of everything: did you know that Raynaud's
phenomenon can affect the nipples almost as often as it affects the fingers?
Raynaud's phenomenon is an intermittently decreased blood flow to certain
areas of the body (most commonly fingers or toes), that may affect the nipples
as well, particularly in nursing women. Nipple pain is one of the most common
reasons that women prematurely discontinuing breastfeeding; Raynaud's phenomenon
is one of the most common causes of nipple pain, but also one of the most
commonly overlooked. Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition that mostly affects
women: it is nine times more prevalent in women than men. Estimates are
that up to 20% of healthy women ages 21-50 may be affected. However, most
women--and many physicians--are not aware that Raynaud's may affect the nipples.
The good news is that this is generally treatable. Ironically, because the
breast pain associated with Raynaud's phenomenonis so severe and
throbbing, and the awareness of this condition is relatively low, it is often
inappropriately mistaken for a yeast infection of the nipples. Symptoms may
also occur during pregnancy.
Treatment options include preventing or minimizing cold exposure, avoiding
substances such as vasoconstrictive drugs or nicotine, and medical therapy.
Nifedipine, a calcium channel blocker (available by prescription only), has
been used to treat Raynaud's phenomenon because of its prompt vasodilatory effects.Very
little of the medication can be demonstrated in breastmilk and thus it is believed
to be safe for breastfed babies. Some lactation specialists recommend Vitamin
B6 therapy (150-200 mg/day once a day for four days, followed by 25 mg/day once
a day) which has shown to work in some cases after a few days, although there
is no scientific evidence to support it.
Created: 12/13/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.